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Tim Peter Thinks

Tim Peter


March 24, 2014

The 7 Fastest Ways to Improve Your E-commerce Effectiveness

March 24, 2014 | By | No Comments

Happy family shopping on tabletIf you could do just one thing this year to grow your business, what should it be? Think about it for a minute. I’ll give you a few ideas to get you started:

  1. Redesign your existing website to improve SEO ranking and conversion rates.
  2. Develop a mobile website to support mobile commerce.
  3. Increase your content marketing to attract new customers.
  4. Grow your email list to increase repeat business.
  5. Improve your social media marketing to drive engagement.

Do any of these leap out at you? Long-time readers of this blog have heard me argue in favor of each of these, but if you can only do one, what should it be?

The answer is: None of the above. Not because these aren’t important. Every single initiative I just listed can help you improve your customers’ experience and increase traffic and revenues.

However, there’s a more fundamental opportunity for your business and that’s to develop a clear picture of who your customers really are and what they really want. Your customers have lots of things on their mind, and ultimately, care more about their needs than they care about you.

If you want to make sure you connect with customers through your mobile, social, web, email . and content marketing efforts — and drive sales through those channels — consider these 7 ways to measure what matters to your customers:

  1. Review your web analytics. It doesn’t matter if you use Google Analytics, Omniture, Webtrends, Analog, AWStats, or something else. What does matter is whether you review your data to see where your customers spend their time, where they bounce, and where they convert. Need help? We’ve got a whole series of posts on how to make analytics work for you.
  2. Conduct an A/B test. Pick one of your top pages and set up an A/B test to see if you can improve your customers’ experience. Not sure where to begin? We’ve got a whole series on A/B testing, too.
  3. Conduct a user test. Sites like make it easy to see how customers interact with content and functionality on your site. Which goes a long way towards showing you how to make that content and functionality more useful for your customers.
  4. Try heat mapping. Another useful tool for seeing what actions your customers take on your site is heat mapping, which lets you see where consumers look, scroll and click on your site’s pages. Tools like CrazyEgg and ClickTale can show you where your customers spend their time — and where they struggle.
  5. Read customer reviews on social sites. For years, I’ve heard marketers say, “If only we could really know what our customers thought of us…” Now, with sites like Yelp, Angie’s List, TripAdvisor, and plenty more, you can. Spend time with your customer reviews, looking for common threads and themes your customers care about. Then use that information to shape — or shape up — your products and services.
  6. Launch a survey. Here’s an idea: When in doubt, ask your customers what they think. You can use tools like Survey Monkey or just set up a simple Google Drive form to capture customer information and get direct input on what your customers think about you.
  7. Talk to your customers. Finally, don’t forget to listen to what customers tell you in your offline interactions, too. Whether you ghost your call center reps to hear what customers call about or visit with your in-store employees, take the time to really listen to what your customers have to say.

The information you’ll glean from these efforts will help you ensure that all your marketing and e-commerce actions actually help your customers — and drive more business.

And that will ensure that your site redesign aligns with customer goals, that your mobile website meets customer needs, that your content marketing answers customer questions, that your email messages tell the right brand story, and that your social marketing connects with customers on a human level.

Still want to do more for your customers? Then you may also enjoy these slides from another recent speaking engagement “Elements of E-commerce: How Digital Storytelling Drives Revenue and Results” here:

And, if you’re interested in learning even more about the future of e-commerce and marketing via the social, local, mobile web, register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

You might also enjoy some of our past coverage of the social, local, mobile web and what it means for your business, including:

Tim Peter


February 8, 2013

Thinks Out Loud Episode 17: What's Wrong With Google's Enhanced AdWords Campaigns

February 8, 2013 | By | One Comment

Google's Enhanced AdWords Campaigns might enhance their bottom line


Now stay warm and dry, Big Thinkers. Watch out for Winter Storm Nemo this week.

Contact information for the podcast:

Technical details: Recorded using a Shure SM57 microphone
through a Mackie Onyx Blackjack USB recording interface into Logic Express 9 for the Mac.

Running time: 12m 47s

You can subscribe to Thinks Out Loud in iTunes [iTunes link], subscribe via our dedicated podcast RSS feed or download/listen to the podcast here on Thinks using the player below:

Tim Peter


January 28, 2013

Finding and Following Your Customer’s Digital Footprint [Updated: June, 2017]

January 28, 2013 | By | 3 Comments

Looking to drive results for your business? Click here to learn more.

4 ps of marketing for learning about your customer's digital footprintYour customer’s digital footprint represents a huge component in building an effective customer profile. I had the great privilege to guest host @IBMBigData’s weekly CXO Chat on Twitter focused on Customer Experience Optimization and how to use this footprint to build your business. The session was called Finding & Tracking Your Customer’s Digital Footprint and looked at your customers’ digital footprint and how you can leverage consumer behavior in your marketing and customer service efforts. It was an incredibly lively discussion and I learned as much as I shared.

Since we held this discussion on Twitter, my responses were limited to 140 characters or fewer. But I think that focused the discussion on the best things you can do to improve your customers’ experience using the data available to you. In the sections below, I’ve tried to capture the spirit of the session while adding some context (e.g., tweets/questions/etc. from other participants) where appropriate.

Anyway, check out the Q&A for yourself:

Can you follow your customers’ digital footprint?

  • It is possible. But first, think about what you’re collecting and why.
  • Customer relationships depend on trust. Make sure you have treated your customer data with care.
  • Have a clear sense of what’s your data (aggregate usage information, opens, clicks, shares, retweets, etc). vs. customers’. [Editor’s note: You may want to check out Why Data Matters for Marketers (Thinks Out Loud Episode 194) too.]
  • All personally identifiable information (PII) belongs to customers, always. Handle with care.
  • If you’re uncomfortable telling customers how you plan to use their data, ask yourself whether you should collect it at all.
  • RT @IBMbigdata @Marco_Saito “Capture” probably wrong verb. “Access” better. Footprint doesn’t need to be in your database…
  • Finally, remember you don’t need to know everything to know enough to help customers achieve their goals.

How can businesses track the digital footprints to profile their customer base?

  • Don’t be afraid to start small. Gather the data that will help you help your customer. [Editor: And, don’t forget, with AI For Marketers: AI Makes Big Data Little (Thinks Out Loud Episode 196)
  • Exactly: RT @DnBUS: Businesses need to rethink marketing segmentation. It’s more dynamic & individualized than trad. demos.
  • Focus on your customers’ behaviors first. They’re a better predictor of future behavior than anything else.
  • Great point. RT @Marcio_Saito Most times, more important to know which venues customer are (context) than what they said (data).
  • Ask customers permission and to volunteer additional information in exchange for content, services, utility.
  • Then (where appropriate) join those disparate data together to create a clearer picture of customers wants, needs, dreams
  • RT @ValaAfshar: Mature service orgs are using prior contact history and predictive analytics to deliver proactive services.
  • One participant on Twitter (@marksalke) asked: “But do customers/consumers care to be ‘analyzed’?”
  • My reply: @marksalke It’s an important question. Depends on how you’re going to use it. Customers want help. If if helps, then yes. If not…
  • But don’t ask customers for the things you should already know (past contact, repeated discussions, etc.)

How far back should we trace the digital footprint? Why?

  • Only go back as far as necessary to help your customers accomplish their goals. Remember trust matters more than anything.
  • Exactly right: RT @stevemassi: customer will ID themselves when theres value in it for them
  • Whenever you’re gathering customer information, ask “how does my having this help my customer?”
  • It’s very easy to slip past “helpful” and towards “creepy.” Don’t go looking for data you can’t use to help your customer.
  • @SJAbbott Seeing those trends is fine. Data in the aggregate is cool if you exclude PII. Just don’t try to mine individuals that way.

How do you use the digital footprint to personalize the customer experience?

  • Focus on behaviors first. What do your customers do? How can you enhance the experience based on what you already know. [Editor: Recommend checking out Content is King, Customer Experience is Queen (Thinks Out Loud Episode 188) and Customer Experience is Queen? What Does That Mean? (Thinks Out Loud Episode 190) for more on this topic.]
  • Tough to give examples in 140 chars, but consider the following scenarios…
  • We already know so much that we could use better. On website, what browser, referrer, geolocation, search query, etc.
  • How can you use that data to offer more relevant responses, content, experiences?
  • On social channels, activity, friends, followers, fans, etc. What do these tell us about customer wants, needs, dreams?
  • @tmustacchio It’s one approach. Though instead of “all available” data, focus on most meaningful data first.
  • Definitely. RT @IBMbigdata Use digital insight to fill in gaps in customer story to then personalize the exp
  • Great! RT @adamtoporek Blend internal data with social/public footprint for total picture. Then take WIIFM approach to cust

How do you bridge the gap between digital and physical footprints?

  • Carefully. 😉 Again easy to slip into “creepy” territory. Instead ask, “How do my customers use these channels together?”
  • Pay attention to transitions. Are customers shifting between physical/digital based on choice or frustration?
  • For many businesses mobile will be key. RT @DnBUS A5: One way to integrate physical & digital footprints: mobile.
  • Keep messages consistent across channels as people move. Help keep them from getting lost.
  • 60% of consumers between 18-34 sleep with their phone due to FOMO (fear of missing out). Offline no longer exists.
  • @SMSJOE That’s right. Customers don’t think “channel.” They think “company.” If you do it bad in one channel, it can follow you.
  • Mobile will drive much of the transition between offline and online. See here:
  • RT DnBUS @stevemassi Good point. We must also get permission to observe mobile use & offer guidance. Understand context of use 1st
  • @marksalke @stevemassi Many already are today. Mobile doesn’t just mean your app. It’s a truly “personal” computer now.

How can businesses take advantage of digital footprints to innovate, differentiate and grow?

  • Again, think first about how it helps your customer. Use data to improve service.
  • With the rise of consumer review, photo and social sharing sites, your brand is what your customer says it is.
  • Exactly! RT DnBUS A6: Digital footprints can fuel innovation by revealing what customers need & want & what they expect from you.
  • Customers who have great experiences tell their friends. Customers with bad experience tell everyone they know.
  • Listening to what your customers’ real needs then applying those lessons will help you improve products and quality of service.
  • Yep. RT @ValaAfshar The art of building trust is to use the information *not* to manipulate, but rather to personalize and inspire.

What best practices should companies employ in leveraging and cross pollinating digital footprints?

  • Protect your customers’ private data first, last, and always. You don’t own it but it’s entrusted to your care.
  • @OBI_Creative I basically agree. But remember you have to listen deeply for what they really want, not just what they say they want.
  • @OBI_Creative Think Henry Ford’s (apocryphal) “faster horse” quote:
  • Establish and maintain cross-functional teams representing different aspects of customer journey. Avoid silos at all costs.
  • Each member of team needs to reflect context as well as content of digital footprint. How/why it matters to customer interaction.
  • @thecxguy asked: “but the question remains. What is “private”?”
  • I responded: Tricky question. Consumers will differ on where the line is, but I still believe PII is (mostly) private.
  • RT @DnBUS: Remember that each “touch”/interaction–regardless of communicating team–is a brand experience.

Should customers disguise their digital prints from businesses? Why or why not?

  • Whether they should or not, they will. Especially from companies that haven’t earned their trust.
  • Customers will increasingly protect their footprint when companies misstep. Don’t misuse what isn’t yours.
  • Customers should share their footprint but only if they receive value in exchange. Data is currency.
  • RT @thecxguy exactly. progressive biz will show their cust what data they collect, what they use it for and give option 2 opt out

It was a great session and I look forward to continuing the dialogue with this group. You should check them out, too.

Interested in more?
Sign up for our free newsletter
and get more information on how to build your social, local, mobile marketing strategy.

You might also want to check out these slides I had the pleasure of presenting recently about the key trends shaping marketing in the next year. Here are the slides for your reference:

Finally, you might enjoy some of these past posts from Thinks to help you build your e-commerce strategy and your digital success:

Tim Peter


September 26, 2011

How long can you afford to suck?

September 26, 2011 | By | No Comments

Customer service mattersHas this ever happened to you? I was standing in line at my local Rite Aid, waiting to buy a bottle of water and some Excedrin for an increasing-by-the-minute tension headache while watching four employees (two cashiers, an assistant manager and the store manager), debating the value of a coupon with one customer.

Now, I’m all for personalized service, but that’s crazy.

During the wait, I watched a few people quit standing in line, put their purchases down and leave the store.

I wonder if any of them came back.

Judging by the items on the counter, the amount of the coupon couldn’t have been more than a couple of bucks. Why didn’t the manager just credit the first customer, then shove her out the door to handle the growing line behind her? Or better yet, ask the assistant manager and one of the cashiers to open additional registers to deal with the growing line?!?

Now ask yourself: Do I ever do that to my customers?

  1. Is your website or e-commerce provider too slow, making your customers “wait in line” to pay?
  2. Are your product descriptions unclear, making your customers search for more information?
  3. Are your pictures or screen font too small, making your customers squint or lean in?
  4. Is your value proposition poorly stated, making your customers unsure why they should buy from you?

Amazon has killed many bookstores (and other retailers) by ensuring fast, free shipping, reasonable prices and a broad selection. So, ask yourself, why does Powell’s Books continue to do well? (Full disclosure: I am an Amazon affiliate.)

Zappos has reinvented the retail shoe business by providing unbelievable customer service (though, not at the expense of other customers), good selection and a simple return policy. But Nordstrom’s doesn’t seem to suffer. Why?

Expedia, Orbitz and Travelocity have hurt many “traditional” travel agents by offering a range of travel products, loads of travel content, and (relatively) transparent prices. And yet, many niche travel agents have excelled during this same period. Again, why?

In all these cases, and many more, the long-time industry players have adapted to the needs of their customers and differentiated themselves from the larger, online-only players. Powell’s focuses on rare and used books, along with hiring committed, book-loving readers. And sells plenty of new books, too, because people who love to read recognize that Powell’s shares their concerns. Nordstrom’s continues its legendary return policy and, again, excels at customer service. Those niche travel agents? Same thing. Relentless customer service, typically building truly extraordinary trips for their well-heeled clients and fulfilling the most unusual requests with grace and style.

Your business is under siege. New entrants, online and offline (though, really, who’s only “offline” these days) seek to help your customers with their problems. And if their problem is you, you’ve now got a bigger problem.

Mobile only makes it worse. For you, that is. For the customer it’s great. Not happy with the service you’re getting? Take a look on Foursquare or Google Mobile or Facebook and find a better option.

Those with deep pockets have one advantage: their deep pockets may buy them a little time while they work out the kinks in their operation. But, too many better options exist for your customers if you’re not paying attention. And too many customers will get out of line, put their purchases down and leave the store.

Are you getting enough value out of your small business website? Want to make sure your business makes the most of the local, mobile, social web? thinks helps you understand how to grow your business via the web, every day. Get more than just news. Get understanding. Add thinks to your feed reader today.

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Tim Peter & Associates helps companies from startups to the Fortune 500 use the web to reach more customers, more effectively every day. Take a look and see how we can help you.

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Tim Peter


March 28, 2008

Small Business Ecommerce Link Digest – March 28, 2008

March 28, 2008 | By | No Comments

A couple of weeks ago, I led with the economy, and this week is no different. Not because I think we need to be overly concerned. No. I think we should be focused. A tough economy is the right time to evaluate what works, what doesn’t, and what to do about both. The least you can do is often the best. So, this week’s pitcher of link juice flows to folks focused on optimizing – getting the most from the least. Drink hearty, lads and lasses.

Have a great weekend, all.